Gov't to pay off street light arrears by end of 2018/19

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, October 11, 2018

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MINISTER of Finance and the Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke says that $7.1 billion of the total non-debt expenditure of the $16.6 billion, added to the 2018/9 budget in the supplementary estimates will be used to pay off the outstanding arrears owed to the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) for street lighting.

He was speaking on the expenditures to be made from the $17.4 billion added to the 2018/19 budget in the first supplementary estimates for the fiscal year, which were approved by the House of Representatives.

Dr Clarke said that substantial and increasing arrears due to JPS by the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development, over the years, have translated into significant and growing arrears due to Petrojam by the JPS.

He said that the Government decided to address the situation decisively for two principal reasons: (1) The non-payment to Petrojam is impacting the refinery's ability to pay its obligations, including taxes and other expenses and forcing it to seek additional financing to facilitate its operations; and (2) Late payment to JPS also affects the quality of street lighting service that citizens of Jamaica experience.

“When Government is in large arrears its moral authority to demand prompt service is compromised,” Dr Clarke stated.

He said that, in conversations with the JPS on the matter, it confirmed that, of 105,000 street lights in operation, approximately 40,000 have been converted to LED. Reducing arrears and keeping on current with monthly payment should result in an acceleration of the conversion of the remaining street lights over the course of the next 24 months.

“This is projected to lower the unit cost of street lighting, which is in the interest of all Jamaicans. I am sure the minister of local government will speak to this in detail in the future,” he noted.

“Furthermore, in conversation with JPS on this matter, they confirm that approximately 12,000 street lights are not working. As we commit to address the outstanding arrears, they have committed to getting half of these repaired by Christmas, continuing at a rate of 2,000 street light repairs per month until all are repaired, which would see all street lights repaired by the next financial year,” Dr Clarke added.

He said that experience has shown that defective street lights disproportionately affect urban areas and those who live in them.

“As the Government focuses on crime reduction, it is important that streets are well lit and, more importantly, that our urban areas are well provided with light at night, reducing the opportunity for undetected or unseen nefarious activity. Streets, well lit at night, are safer streets. Safer streets mean safer communities,” he noted.

He said that, thereafter, the Government intends to remain current with JPS and will insist on higher service levels, with street lights repaired within 14 days of reported breaches

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